Sunday, December 28, 2008

Goals: 2009

I'm going to take the calendar part of this post from my training log for Pandora, but the first bits are new.

I like goals, I really do. To be more general, I like planning. I'm far more likely to carry through with something if it's all mapped out on a calendar, especially if it's color-coordinated. I'm also pretty bad about setting horse-related goals, so this year I decided to get on top of the ball and sketch out what I want my year to look like.

This year is going to focus mostly on Pandora. I've tried focusing on both horses at once, and I just can't do it. This is disappointing for me, because (as I'm sure you can all tell) I adore McKinna. I think the world of that mare, and I love working with her because she progresses so quickly when she's in consistent work. However: she is my mother's horse, and it's not going to kill her to spend the next six or seven months doing mostly walk-trot work with my mom and a little jumping with me, instead of intensive work.

So -- my goals pertain to Pandora. I am letting go of my desire to make progress with McKinna, reluctantly, and focusing on bringing Pandora's skills up to par so that I can proceed to sell her this summer. After that, by all means I'll focus on the wonder-pony ;)

Here's my philosophy on goals: first, they should scare you, just a little. You should look at your goal and go, "Hmm...Can I really do that? I mean, I think I can. But can I?" It's sort of along the principle of, "Shoot for the moon - even if you miss, you'll land among the stars." So I select pretty ambitious goals. I aim high, but within reason, and I fully intend to accomplish that goal even if it's a little unrealistic.

Second, your goals should be measurable. Sure, "I want Dobbin to be broke" is good. "I want Dobbin to do what I ask, at home and away from home" is better. But if your goal is "I want Dobbin to do turns on the forehand and haunches, to walk/trot/canter without spooking in the face of show-ring distractions, and to complete a 10-mile trail ride with no issues" is best, because they're all easily measured. You can look back and definitively say whether or not you accomplished your goals.

And, for me at least, your goals are a starting point. By this I mean, I take my goals and work backwards. Take Pandora's year, for example: the main goal of my year with her is to successfully ride, at either BN or N depending on our level of preparation, in Inavale's annual Horse Trials in June. To me, success means I feel good about the performance we put in. I'll be able to define that more specifically as we draw closer to the actual event, because I'll know what I can reasonably expect from my horse.

So I take this goal and I work backwards from it. If we're going to be ready to compete at a recognized HT in June, what needs to be happening in May? April? This month? What landmarks do I need to find along the way? These landmarks may be training landmarks (can canter a 2'9 course smoothly, can nail canter-trot transitions), competition landmarks (score well at the Pony Club show in March, come prepared to the Combined Test in May), or more general ideas.

With that in mind, here's my rough calendar for the next seven or eight months with Pandora. Obviously things get more flexible as we get further away from the present. I've included some landmarks and planned everything to funnel us toward our Big Goal, the June Horse Trials.

Also, please note that my 'year' ends in midsummer, since that's when I'll probably be selling Pandora. Once that happens I will make a new set of goals for McKinna.

Big Goal: Successfully compete, at BN or N, at Inavale's Horse Trials in June.
Other Goal: Sell Pandora sometime over the summer. [Progress towards this will naturally come by way of progress towards the other goal.]

Dressage to the max! January will be the month of flatwork, flatwork, flatwork. Time to get the girl up off her forehand and really working from behind.

This will be a month of working intensively on things at home. I'll haul out for a couple lessons, but the focus will be on making lots of progress in our own arena. I also plan to spend a lot of time exploring clicker work and seeing how I can use it to resolve issues we come up against.

However, the main focus will always be dressage this month.

There's a Pony Club show on the 31st that we will attend. Also, I will take one or both mares to a clinic next weekend.

The month to ramp up our jumping skills. I have several books that are full of grids, patterns, and exercises, so it's time to start using them. We'll do some free-jumping, do lots of gridwork, and practice smooth courses.

I plan to take her to one or two PC jumping lessons. I would like to haul her somewhere to practice some jumping schooling on my own, but there are several PC clinics this month, so that may not be feasible.

There is also another PC dressage lesson which we'll go to, just to make sure our flatwork is still up to par.

A return to flatwork! There's a PC dressage lesson on the 1st and another PC show midmonth, which will be a good place to check progress. This month I will be focusing on flatwork as it specifically applies to jumping: smooth balanced turns, rating at all three gaits, obedience to the leg. In general, I want to spend this month truly sharpening her response to the aids -- clicker work may come in very handy here.

There's also a Showjumping Rally late in the month - definitely a possibility, but we'll see how things are going.

Time to start thinking about XC, as soon as the weather turns and courses are open for schooling. This will be the month for putting miles on Pandora: lots and lots of riding down quiet roads in the area, trailering to places for real trail rides, and just getting out of the arena.

Since May is when things start heating up, we might relax a little more this month, too. This would be a good time to really shore up weak areas in Pandora's training and behavior if she has any. April would be a good month for playing with obstacle courses and similar things, as well.

I plan to ride in a Combined Test at Inavale. Things should be going smoothly by this point. This month will probably have an emphasis on lessons -- I'll take advantage of the weekly PC jumping lessons offered. Can't forget the flatwork, of course.

It's a bit hard to know exactly what I'll do this month since it's so far out! Since June is such a big month, we'll probably just work on whatever it is that needs an extra boost.

June is competition month! Inavale will have Eventing Derbies on the 6th and 7th, though I may not make it to them because this is right around the end of school and I remember being very busy around this time last year.

Inavale's annual Horse Trials is the 26th through the 28th. This is my major focus point for the year. It's most likely that we'll run Beginner Novice, but if we blaze through the year and I manage to put a ton of riding time in, it's possible that we could go Novice.

According to my Pony Club's website, there's an Eventing camp from the 17th through the 20th. Dunno anything about it, but if it's local and not too expensive, that would be an excellent way to prepare for the Recognized HT.

So basically, June will be focused around these things!

It's likely that sometime in June it will be time to start preparing to sell Pandora. Therefore, I'm pretty unsure what July will hold. Taking her to a show or two, if I can find them. Advertising, advertising, advertising. It really all depends on how the rest of the year goes.

Ideally, Pandora will be happy and competing in a new home by this time!

The later it gets in this calendar, the less sure I am of things, of course. These are more like guidelines -- and they're pretty ambitious guidelines -- but it gives me something to work off of.

To finish, here's a few non-time-specific goals for the year:
  • Get Pandora accustomed to many different riders, so that after a brief adjustment period she is comfortable under a strange rider. This should be pretty easy to accomplish in Pony Club, since catch riding is an important part of things anyway.
  • Use clicker work to establish a wicked solid "come" command. I mean, really. Who doesn't want a horse that gallops up and stops politely in front of you from a whistle??
  • Develop an "old hat" personality about shows -- I think that without too much work, Pandora can easily become a "been there, done that" relaxed type of horse.
So there we have it. Let's see how things turn out.

I would love to hear the goals you guys have for the year. Bonus points if you write a post and map out a rough calendar, then link it here for us to see!


Anonymous said...

I think this is a great post! I think it's always a good idea to have a plan and a goal with training.
I'm going to go for bonus points and make a post with a goal calendar :) It's just going to have to be tomorrow 'cause I've been drinking too much to make a blog post right now!

Leah Fry said...

Yes, a very good post.

My goal is simple: I want to work towards making Poco comfortable and confident without his buddy. He's perfect when someone is with us on Jaz. He's also fine if I stick him in the trailer and take him to Heather's, but he pitches a fit when we walk away by ourselves. Maybe that doesn't seem like much of goal, but it's a pretty big deal to me. And it can be a little scary. Don't forget, I'm still a novice rider and he's a whole lot of willful horse. This goal is certainly do-able, but will require better consistency on my part. Working full time and having a long commute mean that until summer, it's weekends only. I think it will be covering just a little little more time and distance each time.

Stelladorro said...

For Stella, I need her to be jumping 2'6 courses by the end of July, this means weekly jumping lessons for me, both on her and other horses. This also means loads more dressage work, as she stills falls onto the forehand far too often. My other big goal is that Stella needs to tie, both solid and on cross ties. I want to be able to tie her to a trailer at shows and walk away without worrying if she'll pull back once I'm out of site. But because tying seriously freaks me out, I'm paying one of the trainers at the barn to put 30 days on her in May. Because not only will I not have time to ride because I'll be revving up for end of the year tests, but she can also fix the tying problem for show season and keep her tuned up under saddle and hopefully drill a better halt-canter depart into her.

clara said...

my horse is being rehabbed after a seven month lay off due to a pulled ligament. right now he is going great under saddle at the walk, jog, and lope. my goals are to show at the silver spurs club and hopefully get some year end awards. i also want to do some medals classes in stock seat, showmanship, and hunt seat. then i want to go to the Washington state finals show at the end of september.

Meghan said...

My goals for Bandit, the pony I lease, are to continue working on dressage, keep improving the basics, especially suppleness and picking up the correct lead (our weak spots). I would like to learn to do a correct leg yield, especially in trot, and also work on other basic lateral work. He's good at turn on the forehand, so maybe we can start getting turn on the haunches up to par. I'd also like to work on shoulder in under the guidance of a good trainer. I might go to a schooling show next fall, and if that happens I would like to compete in a Training Level dressage test (not sure which one). I want to really solidify my sitting trot which will help with getting the correct lead in canter, as well as bending. My position also needs slight improvement; I tend to ride with rounded shoulders. My legs also need to come back under me a bit, however I'm working against my saddle so I can't expect perfection.

And on that note, my most important goal is not about my pony or my position, it's all in my head. I need to learn to accept and move on from little mistakes that happen without getting hard on myself and becoming emotional. I have always struggled with confidence issues as a rider and was also fearful for quite some time after a fall. I do trust the pony I ride now, but I still fear making mistakes. If I can learn to relax, trust myself and ride with joy, I will be a much more effective and happy rider. That's why this goal takes precedence over anything else.

manymisadventures said...

You guys all have some really good goals! Keep everyone updated on how they go over the course of the year, yeah? I'm always happy to be a sounding board for frustrations or happy success, since that's what I'm doing here in the first place.

Meghan, I think it's awesome that you recognize and are working hard to move past your emotional hang-ups. Not everyone realizes how much of a difference those make. I wish you the best of luck.

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